Project Energy Connect, which aims to increase interconnection between South Australia, New South Wales and North West Victoria, has finally been approved. Proposed renewable capacity in the connected regions already exceeds the transmission project’s notional capacity of 800 megawatts (MWac); a total of 8.6 gigawatts (GWac) of pre Financial Close projects are located on or within a short distance of the proposed transmission line. Neoen’s Goyder South Wind, Solar and Storage hybrid project accounts for almost all of the proposed wind capacity vying for space in Project Energy Connect, accounting for 1.2 GWac of the 1.49 GWac of proposed wind projects. However, the majority of capacity hoping to connect to the new transmission line will come from utility solar projects, which total 4.7 GWac. A key theme for these solar assets is scale; 3.7 GWac of the 4.7 GWac of proposed solar capacity will come from assets with a capacity between 200 MWac and 500 MWac. This is a step up from the largest currently operating solar farms in Australia, which include Neoen’s Coleambally solar farm and Blackrock’s Daydream solar farm, both of which have 150 MWac of solar capacity, and Octopus Investment’s Darlington Point solar farm (the largest committed asset) with 275 MWac of capacity.
NEXTracker and ATI supplying 75% of utility scale PV assets with single axis tracking
The Australian utility scale PV market is dominated by single axis tracking, with 88% of project capacity at or beyond Financial Close utilizing single axis tracking. The tracker supplier market is highly concentrated; just two companies account for 3.7 gigawatts (GWac) of installed capacity, NEXTracker and Array Technologies. NEXTracker has supplied, or has commitments to supply, 2.0 GWac of project capacity from 54 assets, while second placeholder Array Technologies has supplied or has commitments to supply 1.7 GWac of project capacity from 24 assets. Array Technologies distinguishes itself from NEXTracker primarily due to the scale of projects supplied, with four projects at or above 150 MWac, while NEXTracker has only supplied one such mega project at present. Besides the two key players, third placeholder Arctech has supplied five assets representing 412 MWac of capacity, 97% of which comes from three assets: Risen Energy’s Merredin and Yarranlea facilities (100 MWac each) and Total Eren’s 200 MWac Kiamal Stage 1.
Equinor leading major oil and gas companies in the offshore wind market
Although Equinor remains a global leader within offshore oil and gas development, the Norwegian state-controlled operator has been involved in the offshore wind market for more than a decade. The company’s first wind farms were installed in UK waters, where the 317 megawatt (MW) Sheringham Shoal project became fully operational as early as 2012. The 402 MW capacity Dudgeon project and the innovative 30 MW Hywind Scotland Pilot, a pioneering floating wind initiative, followed in 2017. In 2019, the E.ON-led Arkona Offshore wind farm came online, where Equinor holds a 25% equity share.
Despite its established presence in the market, Equinor’s commitment to offshore wind only gained wider public awareness when it announced it would make $11 billion in capital investments from 2020 to 2026 to develop its giant Dogger Bank project in UK waters. The size of the investment was an eye-opener, making it Equinor’s largest offshore investment in the period, surpassing even major oil and gas projects. Dogger Bank, consisting of three equally large phases with 1200 MW of capacity each, is expected to contribute around 15% of the UK’s total installed capacity upon full commissioning, making Equinor a key player in the country’s offshore wind market.